Story: Infinity Ward's approach to this game's design was very unique, they chose to build the core gameplay and map design first instead of working on the actual story. With that being said they still managed to create a complex and compelling storyline that keeps you engaged throughout the entire game. The story transitiones smoothly and also does a decent job giving players a refresh on what occured in the previous game. But just like any sequel, new players to the series should play the prequel first or they will be completely lost and especially in this game players will miss out on the importance of key dramatic moments. The story can be a bit much at times due to the constant change in locations and protagonists, but a second playthrough or even a quick read online will address any confusions. The story could of been a more engaging experience if the settings went from one place to the next instead of jumping around the entire world. Regardless, even with the difficult task of building a story under their unique game design schedule, Infinity Ward has pulled it off. At times you will be angry at the actions of the antagonists, other times you will get a sense of awe as the world plunges into destruction, but in the end you will be left with an exciting story that will make you wonder about the fate of the characters and the fate of the entire world.
These guys are your not friends.
Story Mode - Words and pictures cannot begin to describe how badass this game's gameplay is but I will try my best to enlighten you. The game is broken into three main game types; Story Mode, Special Ops, and Multiplayer. The story mode is like a really awesome 5 hour Hollywood action movie. You travel around the world to places like Siberia and Rio De Janeiro killing terrorists, Russian soldiers, American soldiers, and at one point even innocent civilians as you play the role of a undercover agent pretending to be a terrorist. Every level has a unique setting and has just the right amount of intensity to keep you glued to your monitor from start to finish. The only drawback is that the game is only 5 hours long, although a few hours can be added on Hardened and Veteran difficulty, the game is still fairly short compared to todays games. A short story mode was part of the game design as was the prequel's so more time could be spent working on Special Ops and Multiplayer.
Special Ops - Special Ops are missions designed specifically for coop play. They are levels from both modern warfare games and range from stealthy to full on waves of rushing enemies. These missions easily add hours of gameplay and may take even longer if your partner is new to the game. Special Ops is broken down in 5 parts; Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. A single playthrough on regular will not unlock Echo so you and your buddy have to go through it twice or if you think you are hardcore, go through it on Hardened or Veteran the first time around. The devs were not kidding when they said this was the "3rd game in the box".
Multiplayer - Now that those are out of the way we can talk Multiplayer. Building on its predecessor, the multiplayer is a fast paced and intense game that will leave you sweating for more every night. Leveling up this time around takes quite a bit longer and the level cap has been raised to 70. Prestige mode has also made its appearance on the PC which will add months and months of gameplay if you decide to take that route. The new perk system incorporates 2 perks from the previous game into one. First the player has to do a certain task with a equipped perk to unlock it's second effect. With 3 perks equipped a player can have up to 6 effects which makes for a whole new experience. Secondary guns are not limited to handguns this time around; shotguns, launchers, and machine handguns can be equipped. UAV, airstrikes, and the attack helicopter reprises its role as killstreak effects but there is a host of new killstreaks that can be customized to your liking; EMP, AC130, and a tactical nuke to name a few. There is also newb friendly perks called death perks which give boosts to players who die too often, though they rarely make a difference. There is some concerns in the pc gaming community that losing dedicated servers and capping games at 9v9 is a bad thing but I have grown to like it. There are no more fragfests and the matchmaking system makes it easy to party up with friends. The only problem is that we cannot choose who hosts which causes problems if the host lags. At it's core, the gameplay is a phenomenal experience and is definately Infinity Ward's masterpiece, this will set an example for first person shooters for years to come.
Yes, that is the White House.
Graphics: First and foremost this is a beautiful looking game, the IW 4.0 engine combined with the art creates a very authentic looking war scenerio. The minimum requirements to run the game is suprisingly low and it runs smooth as silk. My mid range gaming rig runs the game very well on high settings at 1440x900. Running at a consistent 60 frames per second is crucial to the online first person shooter experience and this game does just that. The visuals on the single player part of the game is truely amazing for how low the requirements are, the devs did a very good job on optimization. The visuals on Special Ops and Multiplayer are slightly dumbed down for increased performance but still look spectacular. This game has the best visuals to performance ratio by far of any title this generation.
Sound: This is one of those games you play with your speakers blasting and your bass levels to the max. The voice acting is strong and the guns sound stronger. The new weapons all sound great and the old guns still sound good. My only beef is like the prequel, the .50 Caliber sniper sounds underpowered. Real .50 Cals make a loud boom followed by a echo but nevertheless the gun still sounds good. I'm a huge fan of the shotguns this time around and they all sound great. Everytime you pull that trigger the blast makes a nice bang and the reloading of shotgun shells sounds very realistic. Most importantly in this review of the game's sound, famous Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer composed the game's music and he did a damn good job. Every song sets up the mood perfectly from the dark streets of Washington D.C. to the intense firefights in the Brazilian alleys. This man is very good at what he does and I hope he is around to compose the inevitable sequel.
Conclusion: This is a fun game. You don't have to be a fan of the first person shooter genre, you just have to be a fan of playing video games to enjoy this. Although you may not enjoy it to the extent of a die hard Call of Duty player, you will enjoy it nonetheless. The game looks great, runs great, sounds great, and most importantly plays great. There is a very short list of games that can compete and it would not suprise me the least if this game won a couple Game of the Year 2009 awards. Before I went out to purchase the game I asked myself 2 important questions and after many late nights I have come to this conclusion.
1) Is it worth the ridiculous $60? Yes.
2) How long will the game last me? Until Modern Warfare 3.